History of the old model Single Six revolver!

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PALADIN85020

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 30, 2007
Messages
70
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This is an advance peek at a future article on this historic revolver. Hope you enjoy it.

John

SINGLE_SIX-1280_zps2d872774.jpg


Back in the late 1940s the United States, freshly recovered from World War Two, had a renewed and apparently insatiable love affair with the “old West.” The movies featured “westerns” with John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Roy Rogers, William Boyd, Gene Autry and many others in roles that glorified the days of the western frontier. In nearly all of these movies, and in similar portrayals on TV, the heroes wielded Colt single action revolvers. The public loved those cowboy sagas, and they loved those old cowboy guns. But strangely, in 1947, Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company announced that it would not be resuming manufacture of its classic Single Action Army revolver. The machinery to make it had been dismantled and scrapped as Colt’s attended to the manufacture of other guns during WWII. Bill Ruger, president and CEO of the fledgling Sturm, Ruger & Company, saw this as an opportunity to step in and provide folks with the ability to purchase a Single Action Army look-alike revolver at a great price, and it could be chambered for the economical .22 Long Rifle cartridge.

Ruger broached the subject of a Colt look-alike .22 revolver with his patent attorneys, and they agreed that Colt no longer had patent rights on their classic single action. Thus, Ruger had a green light to begin development of a similar revolver. The nickname of the SAA was the “Peacemaker,” and it was realized that name was pretty much off limits. The name “Single Six” was chosen, and the resulting new gun accelerated the expansion of the Ruger firm.

While working as an engineer earlier at the Auto Ordnance company, Bill Ruger was introduced to the concept of investment casting, essentially a modern application of the ancient “lost wax” process used in jewelry making and in dental work. He initially worked with a jewelry company called Arwood, located in Brooklyn NY, to adapt that process to making the trigger and the hammer of the Single Six. At first that company told Ruger that making an investment cast frame for the new gun would be too much of a gamble. Then they relented to Ruger’s demands and attempted it. The first results were awful, with much of the production having to be scrapped. Finally getting things straightened out, Arwood successfully began the casting of the Single Six frame in Groton CT under the leadership of a man named Stan Terhune, who was rapidly becoming an expert in the technique. Terhune eventually came to work directly for Ruger and set up a Ruger investment casting shop in Newport, New Hampshire, where operations continue today. Arwood management continued to work amicably with Ruger and provided personnel to act as consultants.

Bill Ruger began to hint to the press that a .22 single action revolver was under development, and he and his engineers worked overtime to bring it to fruition. They designed the revolver with unbreakable coil springs to power the action, dispensing with the Colt system which used more fragile leaf springs. It was slightly reduced in size from the Colt product, but it used very similar lockwork and an “XR3” grip frame that was identical in size and shape to the time-honored grip of the Single Action Army. This grip frame was black anodized aluminum, and topped with black checkered hard rubber grips. The similarity to the Colt product was reflected in the “three screw” configuration. The aluminum grip frame was economically cast in one piece, unlike the Colt frame which was in two forged steel pieces. The barrels on these first guns were all 5 ½ inches in length. Splitting with Colt tradition, the loading gate on the gun was flat rather than rounded, and had a thumbnail notch in it to initiate opening. Operating exactly as its Colt predecessor, the gun was carried safely with only five rounds in the cylinder, the hammer resting on an empty chamber to prevent a negligent discharge. The satisfying “four clicks” heard when cocking was identical to the sound made by the old Colt.

Gun writer Elmer Keith had provided valuable input to Bill Ruger on single action design, and Ruger sent a prototype to both him and Major General Julian Hatcher at the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine for evaluation in 1952. On February 1, 1954, the factory had completed an initial run of 100 guns out of about 175 started. There were early problems with bluing on the chrome-molybdenum frames, and a number of guns were retained for bluing experiments. Production of 1000 guns was then in progress. In spite of Federal income taxes eating up about two-thirds of Ruger’s 1953 profit, the company was planning a new plant to manufacture the Single Six.

Ruger had begun advertising the Single Six in June of 1953, building up demand for the new gun well in advance of its availability to the public. The first catalog featuring the Single Six was shipped in December, 1953, but the guns did not hit the shelves until early 1954. Ruger had issued an apologetic letter about the delay in November, 1953. Demand for the $57.50 gun immediately far exceeded supply, and the new revolvers became wildly popular when first available. The very first guns had a non-serrated front sight. At around serial number 2000, the rear of the front sight was serrated, and continued to be through 1973 when the “old model” was discontinued. Depending on the amount of silicon in the cylinder frame, early bluing was erratic, and sometimes turned a plum color. These miscolored frames are now valued by collectors. Even more modern blued Ruger firearms are sometimes produced with varying color.

In October of 1955 the slot in the ejector housing was lengthened, to allow for its concurrent use on the then-new .357 Blackhawk revolver. In October of 1956, the small button on the ejector rod was replaced with a larger non-serrated button. In 1956 and 1957, lightweight aluminum-frame Single Sixes were offered. These are somewhat rare to find now. The revolver pictured here was manufactured in January, 1957, just two months before the flat loading gate was replaced with a rounded style similar to the old Colts. This change gave instant collector status to the older “flat gate” guns that are now prized when found. Around September, 1958, the ejector rod housing was modified again to incorporate a straight slot. New barrel lengths were offered around May of 1959, giving options of 4 5/8”, 6 ½”, 9 ½”, or the original 5 ½”. Until 1963, optional grip panels of stag or ivory were offered. Varnished walnut grips became available in 1956. All had the Ruger medallion. In the 1960-61 time period, the walnut grips became standard. Rosewood grips are occasionally encountered. Factory-engraved models were offered from time to time. Ruger advertised presentation cases for either one or two revolvers even before the guns were available The stunning popularity of Ruger’s single actions was a large factor in Colt deciding to re-introduce the original Single Action Army revolver in 1956.

In the summer of 1959, Single Sixes could be purchased with the cylinders chambered for the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire cartridge. Guns chambered for the .22 WMR were the first to get the 6 ½” barrel option. Older guns could also be converted to the more powerful cartridge. At no charge, upon return, the factory could replace the old flat loading gate with the newer rounded one, and could also replace the older-style ejector rod with the newer one.

1963 saw a number of changes. The old grip frame was changed gradually to the newer and slightly changed “XR3-RED” style. Varnished grips gave way to the oil-finished type. Optional grips were discontinued. The steel ejector rod housing was changed to an aluminum alloy. The height of the serial numbers was increased from 1/16” to 1/8”. The .22 Magnum model was discontinued, but a “convertible” model had become became available in 1961, boxed with both .22 LR and .22 Magnum cylinders. In late 1964, a “Super Single Six” was added to the line as a “convertible” featuring an adjustable rear sight and barrel lengths of either 5 ½” or 6 ½”.

In late 1971, the grip medallions were changed from a black eagle on a silver background to a silver eagle on a black background. The “old model” Single Sixes and Super Single Sixes were eventually discontinued in 1973, replaced by the “new models” that used a transfer bar action, allowing the safe carry of six rounds in the cylinder. Gone were the three screws, the “4 click” sound and the necessity to place the hammer at half-cock for loading. Purists, including myself, lament the smooth traditional older actions, but “progress” marches on. At no charge, Ruger will convert the old models to a transfer-bar system, and give you back the old parts for collector purposes.

Today, the old model Single Six revolvers are prime collectibles, with the “flat gate” guns demanding a premium. These were the first Ruger revolvers and marked the beginning of the investment casting process at Ruger. They are historic and classic guns reflective of an era of great expansion at Ruger from a small company to a firearms manufacturing powerhouse.


(c) 2014 JLM
 

street

Hunter
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
2,452
Location
Vinton, VA
One thing to add on paragraph 8, along with the barrel lengths of 4 5/8 and 9 1/2 the 6 1/2 in barrel guns started showing up. They were Mag. marked until 1962 then they were marked Single-Six along with the other guns.

What you are doing should make a very nice article. Good luck with it.
 

PALADIN85020

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 30, 2007
Messages
70
Location
Arizona
street said:
One thing to add on paragraph 8, along with the barrel lengths of 4 5/8 and 9 1/2 the 6 1/2 in barrel guns started showing up. They were Mag. marked until 1962 then they were marked Single-Six along with the other guns.

What you are doing should make a very nice article. Good luck with it.

Thanks for that information. Unfortunately, I can't authenticate the 6 1/2" barrel reference anywhere - I'd need an approximate date and/or serial number range - or perhaps a photo of one with a verified ship date. I do know that Ruger sometimes did "off the books" factory customs from time to time. The first reference to a 6 1/2" barrel that I can find dates to the introduction of the "Super" in 1964.

John
 

PALADIN85020

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 30, 2007
Messages
70
Location
Arizona
contender said:
Very good! What publication?

Eventually, it will probably appear in Dillon Precision's "Blue Press" catalog/magazine. It was too late to include in my now-being-printed book "101 Classic Firearms," although there will be a section in there on the 3-screw .357s. The book should be available this Fall; check the Blue Press for details later this year. Blue Press subscriptions are free; get one by calling 1-800-223-4570.

John
 

street

Hunter
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
2,452
Location
Vinton, VA
PALADIN85020 said:
street said:
One thing to add on paragraph 8, along with the barrel lengths of 4 5/8 and 9 1/2 the 6 1/2 in barrel guns started showing up. They were Mag. marked until 1962 then they were marked Single-Six along with the other guns.

What you are doing should make a very nice article. Good luck with it.

Thanks for that information. Unfortunately, I can't authenticate the 6 1/2" barrel reference anywhere - I'd need an approximate date and/or serial number range - or perhaps a photo of one with a verified ship date. I do know that Ruger sometimes did "off the books" factory customs from time to time. The first reference to a 6 1/2" barrel that I can find dates to the introduction of the "Super" in 1964.

John

I can't believe that you have not found any reference to the Ruger Single-Six with a 6 1/2 in. bl. They first came out in 1959 as a RSSM with a 6 1/2 in bl. with the frame stamped (RUGER SINGLE-SIX WIN. 22RF MAG. CAL.). Serial numbers started at 300,000 and went to about serial number 340,000. After that they started stamping the frames the same way as they stamped the other Single-Sixes. One thing to note the model number for the 6 1/2 in. bl. guns was RSSM even after they changed the stampings on the frame they were still assign the model number RSSM.

See below I have giving you some documentations to prove the 6 1/2 in. bl. Single-Sixes.

Picture #1 is a copy on an ad from the American Rifleman dated June 1959, showing the Mag. Single-Six with a 6 1/2 in. bl.
409826286.jpg


Picture #2 is a copy of an ad from the American Rifleman from May 1961 that shows convertible Single-Sixes with 4 5/8 in. bls., 5 1/2 in. bls., and "6 1/2" in. bls., at $69.50 and the 9 1/2 in. bl. guns at $75.50.
409826287.jpg


Picture #3 is a write up from the June 1961 American Rifleman on the Ruger Convertibles, 22-22 Mag. Single-Six. Notice it list the 6 1/2 in bl. Single-Six.
409826288.jpg


Last but not least is a copy from Dougans book "Know Your Single Action Revolvers 1953-1963," page 173. This shows the Distributor's price list for April 10th, 1959. This shows the RSSM Single-Six with a 6 1/2 in. bl. This is the earliest the 6 1/2 in bl. gun was listed.
409826285.jpg



As you can see there is plenty of documentation for the Ruger Single-Six with a 6 1/2 in. bl.
 

PALADIN85020

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 30, 2007
Messages
70
Location
Arizona
street said:
PALADIN85020 said:
street said:
One thing to add on paragraph 8, along with the barrel lengths of 4 5/8 and 9 1/2 the 6 1/2 in barrel guns started showing up. They were Mag. marked until 1962 then they were marked Single-Six along with the other guns.

What you are doing should make a very nice article. Good luck with it.

Thanks for that information. Unfortunately, I can't authenticate the 6 1/2" barrel reference anywhere - I'd need an approximate date and/or serial number range - or perhaps a photo of one with a verified ship date. I do know that Ruger sometimes did "off the books" factory customs from time to time. The first reference to a 6 1/2" barrel that I can find dates to the introduction of the "Super" in 1964.

John

I can't believe that you have not found any reference to the Ruger Single-Six with a 6 1/2 in. bl. They first came out in 1959 as a RSSM with a 6 1/2 in bl. with the frame stamped (RUGER SINGLE-SIX WIN. 22RF MAG. CAL.). Serial numbers started at 300,000 and went to about serial number 340,000. After that they started stamping the frames the same way as they stamped the other Single-Sixes. One thing to note the model number for the 6 1/2 in. bl. guns was RSSM even after they changed the stampings on the frame they were still assign the model number RSSM.

See below I have giving you some documentations to prove the 6 1/2 in. bl. Single-Sixes.

Picture #1 is a copy on an ad from the American Rifleman dated June 1959, showing the Mag. Single-Six with a 6 1/2 in. bl.
409826286.jpg


Picture #2 is a copy of an ad from the American Rifleman from May 1961 that shows convertible Single-Sixes with 4 5/8 in. bls., 5 1/2 in. bls., and "6 1/2" in. bls., at $69.50 and the 9 1/2 in. bl. guns at $75.50.
409826287.jpg


Picture #3 is a write up from the June 1961 American Rifleman on the Ruger Convertibles, 22-22 Mag. Single-Six. Notice it list the 6 1/2 in bl. Single-Six.
409826288.jpg


Last but not least is a copy from Dougans book "Know Your Single Action Revolvers 1953-1963," page 173. This shows the Distributor's price list for April 10th, 1959. This shows the RSSM Single-Six with a 6 1/2 in. bl. This is the earliest the 6 1/2 in bl. gun was listed.
409826285.jpg



As you can see there is plenty of documentation for the Ruger Single-Six with a 6 1/2 in. bl.

Many thanks! I appreciate all the information!

John
 

The Norseman

Single-Sixer
Joined
Dec 5, 2009
Messages
334
Location
Black Hills of South Dakota
Excellent article. Thank you so much for sharing this treasure of information.

Just sit down at the computer to see what was new on Ruger com, and low and behold, found this article, just after
cleaning my well kept/some holster wear 22 lr Single Six Flat Gate 5 1/2bbl, inherited from my Dad. It has never
been in a holster since I have it. I would say bluing is 98%. Has box and instructions.

The rear of the front sight was serrated. Serial Number is 393XX, which from researching 10 years ago is 1954.
I’m wondering if made in Fall of 1953. This revolver was bought in Alaska.

As a matter of fact, had it at the Range yesterday and shot 12 rounds, to warm up before shooting my USFA Flat top
44spl. I shoot these two together quite regularly.

Trigger is very smooth and breaks like glass. I love the four clicks sound when cocking the hammer.
A very accurate revolver.

Sorry no picture, but looks exactly like the SS at the top of the article.

Thank you so much for this article.
 

chet15

Hawkeye
Joined
Jan 22, 2001
Messages
5,691
Location
Dawson, Iowa
The Norseman said:
The rear of the front sight was serrated. Serial Number is 393XX, which from researching 10 years ago is 1954.
I’m wondering if made in Fall of 1953. This revolver was bought in Alaska.

If that's not a typo, your 393xx range flatgate Single-Six would have been made in 1956.
Chet15
 

The Norseman

Single-Sixer
Joined
Dec 5, 2009
Messages
334
Location
Black Hills of South Dakota
Chet15, you are right it was 1956. I went and researched serial numbers again to confirm, I was mistaken it is 1956. That figures about right and in the time frame when Dad purchaced it.

That makes this SS 58 years old in the family, and will be passed down forever.

Thank you so much.
 

chet15

Hawkeye
Joined
Jan 22, 2001
Messages
5,691
Location
Dawson, Iowa
John:
Did you know the name Single-Six also came from a car??? Called the Packard Single-Six. Goes along with Bill Ruger's love affair with vintage high performance '20's and '30's automobiles...along with the "Blackhawk", "Bearcat", "Super Bearcat" and "Speed-Six"
I've looked a long time to see if Packard had any trademark rights to the name "Single Six" but have never found it. Ruger tradmarked the name in 1957.
Chet15
 

PALADIN85020

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 30, 2007
Messages
70
Location
Arizona
For those of you getting Dillon's Blue Press catalog/magazine, this article appeared as the centerpiece in the August, 2016 issue.

John
 

jbtardy

Bearcat
Joined
Sep 27, 2012
Messages
37
Location
Indiana
Great article along with lots of information from the knowledgeable members on here. I have a 4 5/8" Single
Six with the varnished walnut grips with the serial # 1346XX that I knew was from 1959 but I didn't know
when Ruger first offered the gun with barrel lengths other than the 5 1/2" length. I assume my gun was made
pretty early in the production of the 4 5/8" model. It is in very good condition but I have no box or papers
for it. Even so I still love it. It is unconverted and will remain so until the day comes when I won't know what
happens to it.
 

street

Hunter
Joined
Jan 10, 2008
Messages
2,452
Location
Vinton, VA
1959 was the first year they offered other barrel lengths other then the 5 1/2 for the Single-Sixes.
 

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